The residents of Campos, members of the Mallorcan hostelry and tourist sector and a group of South American tourists visiting the island played a key role in the success of Triangle of Sadness, which debuted to rapturous reviews at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and went on to win Palme d’Or - the second time its director has won this award.
Acclaimed Swedish film director and writer, Ruben Östlund, who made his English-language debut feature with the film, has been in Mallorca participating in the Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival - he actually opened the festival with a special screening of the film.
He has revealed that the first test screenings of the film during post-production and editing were held in Campos - where he lives.
It transpires that a little over a year ago, he and his wife bought a small townhouse in Campos.
They have a young boy and they wanted to be closer to the grandparents, who live in Sant Llorenç, and reduce the constant travelling back and forth to the island.
So, Campos has become more than a second home and Ruben said that not only was most of the editing of the film carried out in Campos, the first test screenings were held in the village as well.
“I think it’s important when you move to a new place that you connect with the local culture and society and that is something I was determined to do. And so holding the test screenings for the local community provided the perfect opportunity,” he said.
“It was a great and very productive experience.
“The first group was a little concerned about its initial length of three-and-a-half hours (he joked). But seriously, post-production and editing is an extremely important part of making a film, especially an epic piece, and the art of cinema is obviously all about connecting with the people and the audience. We managed to gather together a very diverse audience for the various test screenings.
“What was different and more interesting was that we didn’t have groups of cineastas and members of the film industry at the test screenings, the kind of people who are always looking for the negatives. We were showing the film to real people, members of the general public, and the feedback was very different to what we usually get and very productive. And the tests did result in some changes being made, such as to the rhythm of the film. When you show a film to an audience, there is a different reaction as opposed to people watching it alone. People leave the screenings and they talk about it, they discuss the experience and have different points of view and we took them all on board,” he said.
And as a gift, a way of thanking some of the people who attended the Campos test screenings, they were invited to the red-carpet festival opening night.
While Mallorca played an import role in Triangle of Sadness, it could well be that it is the location of Rubin’s next production.
“I am about to begin working on my next film, which is going to be called The Entertainment System Is Down.
“It is set on a long-haul 15-hour flight and some two hours into the flight the whole entertainment system crashes - no in-flight movies, no wifi, no mobile phone connection, nothing. It’s about how the passengers react to a situation like that when we now live in a world in which we are addicted to our phones and social media.
“I’ve already had talks with the Mallorca Film Commission and the airport about shooting at Palma airport, but most of the film will obviously be shot in the enclosed environment of a plane, and that is something we could also do here in Palma. So, this is what we’re looking into now. But I tend to take three years between films. Triangle of Sadness took five years to make because of the break due to the pandemic, but I am looking at my next film being completed within three to four years and, if possible, shot here in Mallorca or at least part of it,” he said.
“There is a very good set-up on the island for filmmakers and it’s constantly getting better. It’s the perfect location for making and shooting films and also for a film festival of the calibre that Evolution offers. The island is so well connected to other countries, it’s stunningly beautiful and the festival is going from strength to strength, with many members of the global industry talking about it and wanting to come here. And that is very important for any film festival to be a success. In addition, festivals have to connect with their location and the local communities, and this festival does all this - hence why it is such a success,” Rubin said.
His new film will again make the audience suffer. “Of course. Going to the cinema is an experience, it has to be and, just like in Triangle of Sadness, I intend to take the audience on another wild rollercoaster ride. I want people to leave the cinema talking about the film. Audiences are not stupid, they are very clever, and that is why we, as filmmakers, have to go the extra mile. We have to push ourselves, we have to take the audience beyond all expectations and that is more important than ever in this day and age of streaming platforms and social media.
“The emergence of the platforms has changed cinema, but it’s also changed how people watch films.
“I remember growing up in Sweden that as a family we would always watch TV together. Today, the only time the whole family or a group of people might come together to watch the TV is for Eurovision. Yes, people are looking at screens, but they are doing it alone, on their own devices in their own spaces. And that can be quite dangerous because people no longer talk about what they are watching collectively and share their experiences together.
“What is happening is that people, especially young people, are being exposed over and over again to images and impressions which do not reflect what is going on in society.
“I’ve already started researching the topic for the new film, as the next generation are going to be influenced by 14-year-old social media influencers and images which are computer generated, artificial intelligence. There are no human curators of the content youngsters are watching and what that means is that humans are not controlling the content of the images which are influencing society. And that is why cinema is unique. We, the humans, are the curators. Plus, we bring people together for a collective experience and enjoyment and we’re not dictating what people should see. Cinema is very often a reflection of society, the real world we live in, and that’s how I like to approach my projects. I like to take social subjects and play with them, give the audience a chance to perhaps look at themselves in the mirror, ignite a thought process, and that is not happening on social media networks.
“And the big challenge as well is getting people out of their rooms, away from their personal devices to come to the cinema to watch films. For that reason, we have a responsibility as an industry to make good films. As a filmmaker and writer, I like to question and confront myself. I touched on the world of art in Square and the rich and famous in Triangle of Sadness and with my next project it will be about our dependence on our individual screens and devices.
“I was reading about a recent experiment carried out in the States. A group of people were gathered together and put into a room with nothing, no phones or anything, to see how they would react. All of them agreed that it was a horrifying experience and just to make the experiment a little more exciting, each member of the group had access to a button which, when pressed, gave them a painful electric shock. Come the end of the experiment, 40 per cent had pressed the button, they were incapable of sitting there quietly, doing nothing for 15 minutes. That’s where we’re at,” Rubin said.
“We’ve become incapable of dealing with our own thoughts, we have to have constant and total distraction.
“So, on the plane in my new film, I will look into how people react to and behave when they have no access to any form of distraction. At first the cabin crew offer them compensation in the form of a free sandwich and mineral water but then the passengers want more; they want endless free alcohol and so it will go on.
“It’s going to be a challenge to make, especially shooting in an enclosed environment. I also want to look into air rage and why it has increased so much recently. According to some studies carried out by the airlines, when boarding the plane and passengers have to go through business class to economy, rage rises by four as opposed to when boarding and you turn either left into business or right into economy and don’t see how the other half fly. It’s really quite fascinating and, again, the film has to be an epic, so it will be another wild rollercoaster ride for the audience. In the end the plane crashes and everyone dies by the way,” he said.
Whether that is actually true, I guess we will have to wait and see but Rubin is already setting out his pitch for what he intends to be another award-winning production.
So, what does Triangle of Sadness mean?
“In Sweden it is what we call the wrinkles between the eyebrows which indicate the troubles in your life or if you’ve had a troubled life - you know, the ones that people can easily have fixed today with a 15-minute botox session” Rubin explained with a smile.
And with regard to watching a film and perhaps taking a look at oneself or a section of society in the mirror, some of the audience in Mallorca may find Triangle of Sadness thought provoking because it is a satirical film about the wealthy elite. The film stars Harris Dickinson, Charlbi Dean, Dolly de Leon, Zlatko Burić, Henrik Dorsin, Vicki Berlin, and Woody Harrelson. It is the last film Dean starred in before her death at the end of August this year.